Probing the past and imagining the future

Afterword

in Focaal
Restricted access

The socialist states of the Soviet Bloc fell, some gently and some far more abruptly and even violently, between 1989 and 1991. In the two decades that have followed, there have been continual attempts by politicians, social scientists, and other academics, as well as by the citizens of these “former socialist countries” themselves, to come to terms with competing memories of what socialism meant, was, and might have been. Simultaneously, efforts to weigh up and assess a range of very different pasts are matched by forecasts of imagined futures that somehow continue to be driven by and predicated on this complex and kaleidoscopic remembered history. The present, the here and now, can, however, be even more complicated; in some ways it neither escapes entirely from the past nor really sets the stage for the future, but rather is a continual state of “becoming”. Just as “memory” is never a “true” reflection of a time or an event, but rather a multiple layering of recollections that change each time they are evoked, none of these complex and rather messy temporalities actually matches the “real” past, present, or future—all carry complex moral judgments, reflect moral questions, and embody the tension between what might have been, what is, and what should be.